He was going to be the great players' coach that Tom Coughlin never was. Gone were the days of punishing training camps. Forget about three yards and a cloud of dust.
Well, so much for the hype. Here's the truth.
Last summer, the Jaguars conducted more nine-on-seven and pass-rush drills in one training camp with Jack Del Rio as their head coach than they probably had in their previous three training camps combined. Players' coach? Yeah, if you're a player who likes to hit.
The fact of the matter is Coughlin was not as hard on his players' bodies as his reputation suggested. His training camps were extremely sensitive to the potential for injury, and it's nearly impossible to accent the physical side of the game in passing drills.
Del Rio changed that last season. This isn't to suggest that Jaguars training camp 2003 was on a level with the "Junction Boys," but last summer's camp may have led the league in bodies on the ground.
What about that three yards and a cloud of dust? Well, if the Jaguars were about anything in Del Rio's rookie year as coach, they were about running the ball and stopping the run. Woody Hayes would've been proud to call them his team.
At least now we know what Del Rio is all about. He's about putting a fundamentally sound football team on the field. He's about putting a tough team on the field. The hype gave him a flash and dash look. The performance of his team said just the opposite.
We should've known as much last summer. In fact, maybe we did know. There was no denying a greater emphasis on the physical side of the game because it seemed as though every time you looked up, linemen were squaring off against each other.
And that's why the Jaguars had the league's eighth-best running game and second-best run-defense. That's why the Jaguars were able to stand toe-to-toe with the Titans and win the physical battle for the first time since the Titans began calling Alltel Stadium home.
Those things don't happen without good reason. The Jaguars became a more physical team because they practiced being more physical. They made hitting a part of their daily regimen. You can't run scared from injuries. This is football. You will get hurt.
Del Rio gave us all a not-so-subtle hint at what his team's style would be when he told reporters, "We WILL stop the run." It was more than a promise. It was a threat.
Players' coach? Is that what you'd call a guy who spent the first half of last season remodeling his roster on a weekly basis?
The second training camp in the Del Rio era of Jaguars football will begin this Saturday and here's hoping it's just like last year's. If the Jaguars are to have any chance of being an AFC South Division title contender this year, they must re-dedicate themselves to the physical style of play they so impressively established in the second half of last season.
Last summer's training camp may be remembered for heat-related incidents and Byron Leftwich's holdout, but the real story was the transformation of the Jaguars into a tough team. It happened during those nine-on-seven and pass-rush drills. Sore shoulders make for strong wills.
Let's not forget that. With apologies to Peter King and all of the Jaguars' other back-slappers, this team has not arrived. It is not above such mundane pursuits as blocking and tackling. That's what training camp was all about last summer, and it needs to be that way again.